Twenty-five years ago, Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was named National League MVP. Photo: Rockies/Twitter
November 13, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-Left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) exercised his $4-million player option with the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday. That means the veteran southpaw will return to the Sox organization. He originally signed with them on December 1, 2021 but didn’t pitch with them in 2022. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2021, Paxton had been working his way back in the Sox system when he suffered a grade 2 lat tear in late August that shut him down for the season. A North Delta Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, the Canuck lefty has pitched in parts of nine major league campaigns and owns a 57-33 record and a 3.59 ERA in 137 starts. On May 8, 2018, while with the Seattle Mariners, he tossed a no-hitter against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre to become the first Canadian to throw a no-hitter in a Canadian major league park.
–The Chicago Cubs have hired Jim Adduci (Burnaby, B.C.) as an assistant hitting and game planning coach. It will be his first season on the Cubs’ big-league bench after serving for two years as the club’s assistant director, run production. Prior to his coaching career, Adduci played parts of 16 professional seasons. The 37-year-old, who played in the Cubs organization from 2007 to 2012 and then again in 2019, enjoyed his longest tenure in the big leagues in 2018 with the Detroit Tigers when he batted .267 in 59 games. The 6-foot-2 first baseman/outfielder previously suited up for parts of two seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and 2014, batting a combined .189 in 61 games. Selected by the Florida Marlins in the 42nd round of the 2003 MLB draft, Adduci enjoyed his greatest success with the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2015 when he hit .314 with 28 home runs and 106 RBIs in 132 games.
-Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) told the 755 is Real podcast that he’s expecting this to be a “normal off-season” and to be ready for spring training. The Canuck righty shared some of the struggles he has endured in recovering from twice tearing his right Achilles tendon with the podcast’s hosts David O’Brien, from The Athletic, and former Braves left-hander Eric O’Flaherty. “Flipping the switch from rehab to competing was harder than I thought it was going to be,” said Soroka, who posted a 5.40 ERA in six late-season starts between class-A and triple-A before being shut down with elbow inflammation. Those starts represented his first game appearances since he first tore his right Achilles tendon on August 3, 2020. A graduate of the Calgary Redbirds and Junior National Team, Soroka was a first-round pick (28th overall) of the Braves in 2015. In 2019, he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
-According to Kendall Rogers of D1 Baseball, Robin Lund, who grew up in Peace River, Alta., has been hired as an assistant pitching coach by the Detroit Tigers. To say Lund took a circuitous route to a big-league coaching career. is an understatement. After spending his early years in Peace River, Lund moved to Lewiston, Idaho to play high school baseball. He graduated to pitch at Spokane Falls Community College, but soon discovered he wasn’t good enough for a pro playing career. He then worked towards his Ph. D. in exercise physiology at the University of Idaho and would be employed as a professor in the department of movement and exercise science at the University of Northern Iowa for 17 years. It wasn’t until December 2018 that he got back into coaching when he joined the Iowa Hawkeyes. His stock has steadily risen in the coaching ranks since. “I’m a scientist that coaches pitchers,” Lund told Hawk Central in May.
-It was 25 years ago today that Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) became the first Canadian to win the National League MVP Award. The left-handed-hitting slugger captured the honour by batting .366 and belting 49 home runs during the 1997 season. He also drove in 130 runs and swiped 33 bases for the Colorado Rockies and topped the National League in on-base percentage (.452), slugging percentage (.720), on-base plus slugging percentage (1.172) and total bases (409). For good measure, he also won a Gold Glove Award for his standout defence in right field. To put into perspective how great Walker’s season was, his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 1997 was 9.8. In comparison, Joe DiMaggio’s WAR in 1941, the year he enjoyed his 56-game hitting streak was 9.4. The next best single-season WAR by a Canadian position player (other than Walker) is 8.1 recorded by Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) in 2017. In other words, Walker’s 1997 campaign remains by far the greatest all-around season by a Canadian position player.
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Norton (left), shown here with Hank Aaron, would’ve turned 80 today.
-Please take a moment to remember former outfielder, legendary scout and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Norton who would’ve turned 80 today. He passed away in 2018 after a valiant battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Born in 1942 in Winnipeg, Man., he played in 1,206 minor league games – including five seasons in triple-A – before becoming a trailblazing baseball executive and scout in Canada. In the mid-1970s, he founded and established Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team and he became a long-time coach and manager for the organization. He also managed Canada’s Pan Am Games team in 1975, prior to helping to launch Baseball B.C. two years later. In 1986, he established the National Baseball Institute (NBI) in Vancouver, which developed into one of the best baseball academies ever created in Canada and is often cited as the standard for similar facilities. After leaving the NBI in 1994, he evolved into one of Canada’s most respected baseball scouts. Fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Gillick hired him to scout for the Baltimore Orioles from 1996 to 1999 and when Gillick accepted the Seattle Mariners’ general manager position in 2000, he brought Norton with him. While with the Mariners, Norton helped the club draft and sign Canadians Michael Saunders (Victoria, B.C.), Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) and Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.). For his excellence in scouting, Norton was named Mariners’ International Scout of the Year in 2007 and Canadian Scout of the Year by the Canadian Baseball Network in 1998 and 2013.
-Happy 63rd Birthday to former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher and Edmonton, Alta., native Dave Shipanoff! Signed as a free agent by the Blue Jays in 1980, the 6-foot-2 right-hander was shipped to the Phillies on April 1, 1985 as part of a package for first baseman Len Matuszek. In his sole big-league season, he posted a 3.22 ERA and recorded three saves in 26 relief appearances for the Phillies. That earned him the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, as top Canadian player, in 1985. He finished his professional career with eight appearances for the Angels’ triple-A Edmonton Trappers in 1987.
-Happy 54th Birthday to 2016 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pat Hentgen! The Detroit native was part of the Toronto Blue Jays organization as a player, coach, ambassador or special assistant for close to 30 years. During his 10 seasons as a pitcher with the Blue Jays, he was a two-time World Series champion, three-time All-Star and the club’s first Cy Young Award winner (1996). In total, Hentgen registered 107 wins (fifth-most in franchise history) for the Blue Jays and also ranks fifth all-time among the team’s hurlers in games started (238), innings pitched (1,636) and strikeouts (1,028).
-This week’s trivia question: Two other Canadian have won major league MVP Awards since Walker did so in 1997. Who are they? Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.